Our neighbor, George, who by coincidence has a neighbor also named George, recently commented on the holiday flag on his home. There are a lot of holiday flags at this time of the year but this one apparently drew his attention. The word on the flag was "Merry Christmas," but what caught his eye were the additional words "Peace, Love, Joy."

I am sure that these are admirable words for his neighbor. But they are also meaningful words of hope for the inhabitants of the world community.


During this holiday season we sang a song of peace: "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." A song of love: "Love came down at Christmas." And a song of joy: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"

The concern that George has is how do you take the words "peace, love, joy" off of a holiday flag and translate them into daily action? It is a lot easier to sing a song or put up a banner than it is to live out these words in life. If it was easy it would have been accomplished long before now.

While peace may be desirable, even wonderful, we must admit there are a lot of people who really don't want peace or love or joy to work. Could the list include those who love power in order to abuse power, those who believe their view of God is always the correct one and every other interpretation is heretical, the military-industrial complex, those who "have" and believe the "have nots" should be kept in their place, those who believe Christmas is a day that has come and gone and as long as I am filled with joy that is all that matters ... and the list goes on.

In the well-known prayer called "Our Lord's Prayer" (which was never intended to be used as a popular prayer but rather as a guide on how to pray) there is a powerful line that goes, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It is as if Jesus is saying the "peace, love and joy" that you find in heaven must be how humans are to live together on earth. Rather than being raptured off of the earth we are called to be so raptured right here and now that "peace, love and joy" are a reality.

Thomas Moore in his book "The Soul of Christmas" writes "each of us is as lowly as the manger and yet any of us could have sufficient power of vision and soul to make a huge difference in the future of the cosmos. Will our planet die out in mutual savagery or will it become glorious because it has found a way toward peace and community?"

The question is where does the "sufficient power of vision and soul" come from? Certainly not from wishful thinking or dreaming.

First, you have to believe that peace, love and joy are more than admirable words. Rather they are worth devoting your life to make them happen. "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5.9) sounds good on paper but those who affirm this beatitude often travel in uncertain times. Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others gave their lives promoting love and peace for all people. Is it worth the effort? They believed it was!

Second, is the realization that no matter how great is your ability or faith you cannot bring them into reality by yourself. Human ability and achievement only go so far. If your heart and mind say "yes" to changing the world then the Spirit known as Emmanuel says I will be with you to make it happen even to the end of the age.

Third, and maybe the most important, is that the celebration of Christmas is about new birth and responsible power which comes through the Bethlehem manger and from the Spirit for all who desire to change the community and the world. This is the reason why Christmas is not only for those who follow Jesus but is for everyone! This is why shepherds hurried to the manger. This is why the angels sang. This is why astrologers in the east saw a star, packed their bags and moved out.

The next time you pass by a house flag that promotes community ask yourself, What can I do to make it a reality? The next time you hear or see the words "love, joy, peace" ask yourself, How can I live them out in my own life?

Let the dialogue continue. We only ask that you think on these things.

The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis "Lou" Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at julo1@verizon.net.